A Shard of Ice (Black Symphony, #1)
THE bitter, pinching wind stung the Captain’s face as he perched against the glacial-coated bars lining the ship. Even in the twenty plus years of fishing, the sight of his vessel transforming into an icy death trap never failed to mystify him. Hunks of ice, rigid and sharp, weighed everything down onto the deck and its contents, forming a near-impenetrable barrier over it all.
Then again, that was what you got when you sailed a fishing boat through the untamable sea.
He stepped back inside, closing the door tightly behind him and making down the tiny, narrow hall. Voices and light danced ahead, rousing shouts and cheers as chips and other random items were scattered onto a small table crammed in the middle of a tightly wedged room.
“Ice has got to be ten feet thick, easily. Looks like we’re here for the night, boys,” he said with a half-hearted shrug. A round of grunts and groans ran across the small room. Six men of varying ages had squeezed themselves about the table, shoulders and arms draped in thick wool in a vain attempt to shield their skin from the bitter elements lurking outside.
Shoulders bunched, one of the older men sitting in the far corner reached up to scratch the scruff lining his jaw. He shrugged with displacement. "Only means more time for Jesse here to lose his wife in a game of cards."
The men laughed, save for a slightly younger one who’d gone red in the face. His voice came out in a half-strangled squeak. “You wouldn’t know what to do with her even if you did win her with your crappy hand.”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, the Captain started to shuffle his way about the small space. He paused at the door frame leading to their bunks, glancing over his shoulder. Seated alongside the frame on a metal folding chair, the youngest of their new recruits was quiet and unmoving. Tuffs of slightly curling blonde hair peeked from under his ratty skullcap sporting a hole in the back.
The Captain placed a hand on the kid’s shoulder, frowning as he stiffened to the touch. “These rats giving you a hard time, Kyle?”
Leaning back an inch, the boy tilted his head up. Startling, sharp blue eyes glimmered mischievously. He lifted his cards from his chest carefully, exposing a royal flush.
“Not at all, sir,” he said quietly. “These rats don’t realize a cat is amongst them tonight.”
The Captain squinted, confused by the boy’s awkward and out-dated choice on words, but laughed it off. Clapping his back, he grinned approvingly. “I remember the first time I-”
A loud bang jolted the ship. Everyone shifted sharply to the left, elbows and shoulders banging into each other as contents from the game spilled onto the crowded floor. The door to the deck flung open, one of the men stampeding inside.
His eyes were wide, swallowing his face. “There’s a body, out on the ice.”
Disbelief colored the Captain’s voice. “What the hell have you been smoking in your pipe?”
The man didn’t budge. Green started to creep up his face. “A-a body, outside. On a patch of ice.”
Swears and grumbles swelled in the room like a burst of cellos and drums. Several started to gather their chips and coins, while the Captain and two others rose from their seats and made for the door outside. Kyle followed behind, paying little attention to the glacial temperature leeching at his skin joined the small group.
Eyes still wide, the man half-slid across the deck, catching himself on the ice-encrusted railing. He flung an arm out over the metal bars, finger pointed in a wild tremor. “Right there! Between those spikes of ice!”
The few that came out inched closer, exchanging mixed glances. It wasn’t uncommon for one of the crew to go crazy every couple of years, in fact they even took bets before shipping off as to who would crack first under the lonely, inky black skies.
Tugging his cap tighter over his ears, Kyle brushed past the Captain, bringing himself alongside the spooked crew member. He squinted, peering into the black expanse marred by faint outlines of craggy ice. Shapes began to take form amidst the dark, spikes of frozen slabs stretching as far as the heavens, like knifes trying to cut into the stars. The jagged pieces cradled a base of perfectly smooth ice, spread like a stage.
Lying in the center, face pressed against the base, lay a girl dressed in a thin white nightgown. Her hair, golden and light, had been fanned out in a perfect circlet around her face.
Kyle felt the color drain from his face, a new chill rattling in his chest that had nothing to do with the cold. Heat raced up his arms, pain prickling at his skin. He winced, breath puffing like little clouds of smoke in front of his face. It couldn’t be her...
"Sweet Mary," the Captain gasped, stumbling closer to the rails of the boat. Even against the bitter cold leeching at his body heat, he'd never felt so frozen inside at the sight mapped out in front of him. Staring back at the other men, he screamed. "Don't just stand there, we've got to get them off the ice!"
The Captain’s words snapped him out of his haze. Without a moment's pause, the men all moved into action, grabbing ropes and hacking at the ice frantically. Kyle stepped back from the railing, biting his lip. He could feel the etchings on his skin returning to life underneath his sleeves. Her presence alone was enough to trigger the memories, to reawaken the spirit within.